Stress relief on four legs visits nursing students

Stress relief on four legs visits nursing students
Aladdin, a certified therapy dog, laps up the attention from students during a visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Nursing School, Camden on April 21. Once a shelter dog that had been severely abused, the pitbull’s legs easily tire, so he got his own wheelchair for part of the visit (shown in photo below). Photos by James A. McBride

Aladdin, a certified therapy dog, laps up the attention from students during a visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Nursing School, Camden on April 21. Once a shelter dog that had been severely abused, the pitbull’s legs easily tire, so he got his own wheelchair for part of the visit (shown in photo below).
Photos by James A. McBride

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Knowing what a comfort her own dog was in helping her heal from a stressful life experience, Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing instructor Wanda Broach-Butts came up with the idea of a pet therapy visit.

So, on April 21, she arranged a visit from Aladdin. He spent time with nursing students to provide stress relief during exams week, and he also visited patients on the hospital’s rehabilitation unit.

And when his back legs got tired, Aladdin got put in a wheelchair until it was time to go home. (But he didn’t leave until the whole nursing school class got together for a group photo with him.)

Three years ago, Aladdin was a shelter dog. The 5-year-old pitbull was found starved, missing 12 teeth and was suffering from broken legs and a broken tail.

Michele Schaffer-Stevens, Aladdin’s “mom” and a foster to rescue dogs, said he’s always been a loving dog from the moment she’s had him.

“Despite the horrendous abuse he suffered, he greets each person with love. He makes a connection with everyone,” she said.

Aladdin slowly healed and became a certified therapy dog. Today he is a model for a nationwide animal abuse campaign, Show Your Soft Side, a Ronald McDonald House ambassador dog, a 2016 Hero Dog Award nominee, and the subject of a Temple University study on the effects of therapy dogs for special needs students.

(He is also a brand ambassador for Tito’s Vodka, spokesdog for Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue and a 2015 Pawject Runway VIP. Not to mention he is a social media sensation, with 11,000 Facebook likes, www.facebook.com/aladdinnation/; Instagram AladdinNation-BrindleBrothers, 1,100 followers.)

“Aladdin is a special dog,” said Schaffer-Stevens. “He snuggles, he’ll be quietly there when someone prays, and he happily spends time with patients and their family members. It’s a moving experience to witness.

“He just senses sadness and pain, and instinctively knows when someone needs support. He gently reminds people to treat everyone with kindness.” Schaffer-Stevens said.

Says Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing instructors, “Aladdin is a powerful teaching tool for instructors to show students there are a variety of ways to bring someone into a positive state of health.”

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